BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) — Since 2016, the prison population has declined due to programs that train people for jobs upon release from prison.
It may look like normal construction in the capital region.
“Once I started, it was just the idea of learning something new and having an opportunity and that really spurred me on,” Shelia Jenkins said.
But at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women, inmates practice using heavy equipment.
“I love it and it’s something I would pursue outside of here because you get the feel of what you trained for, and we’ve been training since 2019, so now we get the feel of what we’ve really been doing it, so now it feels like an accomplishment,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins and her colleagues are training so they can teach more women to use these machines.
“It’s a male dominated industry, it’s true, but I feel like it should be equal because being here we probably have the same feeling as them, but it’s more invigorating. because we’re women, and no other women really do that.” , and we have the opportunity to make a statement to say, yes, we could do it, to also open the doors for us to find us high-paying jobs like them,” Jenkins said.
Before tackling real heavy equipment, they train on simulators.
“I can see why they are doing this, they are simulating fighter jets and truck driving so now I see how it really works because getting on the real machine is so much easier because you know what they are looking for” , said Dawn Bennet.
Bennet is working on passing his certification exam next week.
“While we’re here right now, you can help train other people who can go home, and they can earn a living and earn an honest living, they don’t have to come to jail,” said Bennet.
Since 2016, incarceration for non-violent offenses has decreased by 35%, according to the LWIC.
According to Kristy McGovern, director of educational programs, it’s because of reintegration programs.
“They come back with social skills and job skills, and character and financial capabilities and all that stuff, so when they come out they’re ready to stay out of prison,” McGovern said.
Teaching women these normally male-dominated professions helps them break down more barriers.
“I think we can do a lot of things if we think about it and focus on it. Learning overcomes obstacles. Yeah, it’s hot there, but we had a blast there,” Bennett said.
Here, women are also trained in the trades of welding and cosmetology.
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